The long awaited feature film debut from talented writers/directors Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland, Shopping debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Mark and Louis, the team behind internationally acclaimed short films Run and The Six Dollar Fifty Man, kindly found the time to have a chat about what they learned while making the film.
The long awaited feature film debut from talented writers/directors Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland, Shopping, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. It tells the story of Willie (Paulo), a half Samoan teenager who must protect his younger brother Solomon (Dennison) from their volatile father Terry (Browning). When life at home becomes unbearable Willie must choose between leaving home and joining a new family, a bunch of petty criminals, or standing up to his father.
Mark and Louis, the team behind the internationally acclaimed short films Run and The Six Dollar Fifty Man kindly found the time to have a chat about what they learned while making Shopping.
RC: Congratulations on your impressive 13 nominations for this year’s Film Awards. Will you be preparing acceptance speeches or winging it on the night?
LS: Winging it sounds way too lax for such a cool bunch of people as the film industry. Probably be more like an improv...
MA: If we do manage to get on stage – the pregnant pauses that you will see were definitely pre-rehearsed.
RC: What are you most proud of about this film?
LS: The strength of the film is undeniably its truth, which is something we have really fought for. We're also proud of the way our team made it happen. We were very lucky to have talented people who fought for our vision and added their own. To see them being nominated also makes us very proud.
RC: Was it a hard to make the transition from short films to feature film?
LS: Absolutely. But that’s partly why you make your first feature, the challenge of creating this thing that however much you prepare for is always huger than you had planned.
MA: The expectation to make an amazing short film is an interesting one, we always wanted to make great shorts but we never had people telling us that either of our shorts were the make or break for our careers. It’s quite different. That’s what it’s like on your first feature film. I’m not sure if that sort of pressure is healthy. You need to keep that out of your mind and try to make your first film for the right reasons... its what got you there in the first place.
RC: What do you know now about filmmaking that you didn’t before Shopping?
LS: Definitely learnt a heap about writing.
MA: It was definitely a baptism of fire in terms of the writing process and also learning to pace yourself. Feature films are a long haul.
RC: How does it work with two directors on set?
LS: We fight heaps. It’s ugly. Half our time on set is spent working through our creative ideas with a counsellor. But when it works its like the Power Rangers sword all joined up.
M: Yeah the crew had to wear welding masks sometimes, shit just exploded and bam! Luckily Joe Nolan, our first AD knew a guy that knew a guy with a welding workshop.
RC: You discovered two new stars in Kevin Paulo as Willie and Julian Dennison as his younger brother Solomon – neither had acted before so how did you prepare them for their roles?
LS: Trust, honesty and a whole lot of workshopping. We look for strong performers whether they’ve acted before or not. Some people just know, they don’t need to be taught the basics. Luckily we spent time finding two such gems.
MA: Yep casting is a numbers game - but when the ‘right one’ steps into the room you know they bring a lot of what you’ve written and then some. Then it’s a matter of looking after that and then looking for a way to grow it further, through workshopping and relationship-building.
RC: Your next project is called Hell’s Teeth – what can you tell us about it?
All under wraps for now. Best, M and L.
Watch the Rialto Channel New Zealand Film Awards on Rialto Channel, Sunday 15th December at 5.25pm.